ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

A+| A| A-

Primitive Accumulation and Some Aspects of Work and Life in India

How is labour to be conceptualised in the present context? On the one hand, there are the claims of the new economy that old forms of labour are being transformed and reformed; on the other, there is the reality of informalisation, casualisation and dispossession. This article looks at the various forms of labour in the new economy and argues that the process of informalisation of labour can only be understood in terms of the concept of primitive accumulation. From this point it moves on to discuss the implications of such accumulation for democracy and citizenship.

SPECIAL ARTICLEEconomic & Political Weekly EPW may 2, 2009 vol xliv no 1833Ranabir Samaddar ( is with the Calcutta Research Group, Kolkata.Primitive Accumulation and Some Aspects of Work and Life in India Ranabir SamaddarHow is labour to be conceptualised in the present context? On the one hand, there are the claims of the new economy that old forms of labour are being transformed and reformed; on the other, there is the reality of informalisation, casualisation and dispossession. This article looks at the various forms of labour in the new economy and argues that the process of informalisation of labour can only be understood in terms of the concept of primitive accumulation. From this point it moves on to discuss the implications of such accumulation for democracy and citizenship.Today, in the context of globalisation and amassment of new riches, there is once again the (old and familiar) argument that work has transformed in many areas, and it is directly producing wealth for the worker. We can also listen to the emergent, half-sure voices of economists claiming that divi-sion of labour is not so much of a reality anymore and that it is giving way to discrete forms of labour – labour that transgresses boundaries of forms, regimes, structures, etc. In this new euphoria, whose source can perhaps be traced to a kind of repressed anxiety about the persistence of “low” and “crude” forms of labour and a desire to escape this world of vulgar labour, we can witness the appearance of an anthropological economics, which deduces economic truths from a limited anthropological, particularly ethnographic work. The high (pure economic) tales and the low (limited ethnographic research) tales of economics have met each other today. The meeting point is, how to explain away labour at this time, in the early years of this new century. Or, to put more accurately, how is work to be represented today?We are of course discussing this amidst the cacophony all around us, that the space for gainful manual work is shrinking almost to the point of vanishing; that everywhere we find only while collar labour and digitalised work, and therefore it is now pointless to keep on talking of quality of work, its degradation, etc. And precisely when we hear that the world of labour is not relevant any more, we hear, at that same time, talk of abolishing labour protection laws because these laws prevent production, they are stumbling blocks to progress, and union power needs to be curbed severely. On the other hand, trade union acts have sud-denly become bones of contention. This is not an essay on political economy, also not an essay on some section of the labouring people in India. It is a commentary on the persistence of what is called degraded labour, unorgan-ised labour, un-clarified labour process, whose existence defeats the loud claims of globalisation, reforms, trickle-down growth, all round development of society, wealth of nations, etc. Hope-fully, at the end of this description of some forms of work in India we shall be able to reflect on the ongoing debates on labour and accumulation today. We shall also be able to see the broader significance of the existence of such labour in terms of accumula-tion, capital’s logic and the social separations or divisions (of work and property, labour and wealth, producer and the product, etc), and therefore relations, which capital represents as an em-bodiment of accumulation. In this way we shall be able to find an answer to the question: How can we characterise work and life – at least one part of it – from the point of labour? In what way does
SPECIAL ARTICLEmay 2, 2009 vol xliv no 18 EPW Economic & Political Weekly34labour keep on struggling against representations forced on it by the regime of capital?Who Are the Workers in India Today?Who are India’s workers today? At the close of the last century, a little more than 90% workers were in the unorganised sector.1 This percentage increased further by 1 percentage point in the next five years. Though, expectedly, agricultural labour ac-counted for a large proportion of this workforce, non-agricultural labour accounted for about 40%. About 38% of this labour is in the formal sector. In other words, we have a discernible increase in formal sector employment (about 16%) – but this employment remains informal and bound by temporary contracts or casual arrangements and lacking social security provisions. However, this nesting of the informal within the formal is not the only fea-ture of work and employment today, the percentage of wage la-bour among various forms of labour is also significant. Wage workers account for about 36% of the total workforce in the unor-ganised sector and the percentages in the agricultural and non- agricultural fields are roughly the same (one-third respectively). This figure may conceal some features, like many domestic “self-employed” workers may be tied to outsourcing networks of large formalised industries in textiles, leather products, etc.2Casual wage labourers in both rural and urban sectors occupy the bottom of income distribution. Dependent on wage earnings, 16% of the wage-workers are landless and 64% have sub-marginal landholdings, in other words holdings of no more than half hectare. When the stipulated national minimum wage in 2004-05 was Rs 66, in agriculture the average daily earning was Rs 42.48 (for male Rs 47.48 and for female Rs 33.15), in manufacturing Rs 57.59, and in case of all casual workers it was Rs 48.49; and the percentage deficit of the labourers in getting the national minimum wage was, respectively, 90.46, 71.37, and 83.72.3 By all means this is a range of staggering deficit indicating the massive extent to which the actual number of workers not getting the national minimum wage,thus the staggering deficit in the daily earnings of vast majorityof workers. If one calculates the inflation, the story is grimmer.Low wage levels combined with poor working conditions rein-forced the heterogeneity of labour. Units with market power and modern technology have been able to absorb the pressure of minimum wages, while small, less productive enterprises have either gone out of the market, or have moved further along the scale of informal conditions. The Report on Conditions of Work and Promotion of Livelihoods in the Unorganised Sector 2007 (hereafterRUS) highlights the absence of compensation for work-related injuries and deaths, occupational diseases, poor housing, lack of sanitation and long hours of the workday.4 In one instance (beedi workers) only 3% of the workers were provided any hous-ing facility. In the fish processing industry women, who are em-ployed in large numbers, have had to live in barrack like make-shift housing where they have remained highly vulnerable to sexual exploitation.5 Given this context, has the government’s promise, under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (2005), of providing 100 days’ work at fixed wages worked? To put it straight, it has not worked at all. In 2006-07, in terms of employment provided (number of person-days per household) some states like West Bengal (14.3%), Meghalaya (2.5%), Mizoram (15.4%), Kerala (20.7%), Tamil Nadu (26.7%), and Uttar Pradesh (31.9%) faredworse than others (Table 1). While considering Table 1, which gives us the full picture, we have to keep in mind the fact mentioned earlier, namely that the general picture is one where we find that a vast majority of rural labour does not get the minimum wage norm – in case of agriculture 90.46% of labour, in manufacturing 71.37%, and in construction 61.91%, and in case of all casual workers taken together, 83.72% of labour do not get the minimum wage.6 Workers belonging to socially backward and minority communi-ties within the unorganised sector are more vulnerable. The pov-erty ratio of Muslim other backward classes (OBC) workers at 21.5% is similar to that of the Hindu OBC workers while poverty ratio among Hindu scheduled castes was 26.2% in 2004-05. An analysis of national-level data clearly shows that the absence of meaningful educational endowment adversely impacts the quality of employ-ment and the ability to secure reasonable wages.7 In any case, we need to keep in mind that the Minimum Wages Act, 1948, is the only available statutory legislation to ensure minimum wages for agricultural workers. The National Commission for Rural Labour (NCRL) had proposed Rs 49 as the minimum wage for rural labour.8 At the turn of the last century, as the Rural Labour Enquiry (RLE) (1999-2000) showed men got Rs 41 (combining cash and kind) as the daily average earning, women got Rs 29 and children Rs 25.Table 1: Wage Rates in Rural India, NREGA Wage Rates and Number of Person DaysSl States Average Daily Wages Rates NREGA Wages Employment Provided No in Agricultural Occupations Rates (Rs) Number of Person Days in Rural India, 2004-05 (Rs) Per Household Men Women 2006-07 2007-081 AndhraPradesh 36.61 27.83 80.00 31.4 27.82 ArunachalPradesh - - 66.00 26.8 03 Assam 30.23 15.52 66.00 72.3 23.54 Bihar 45.06 26.24 77.00 35.3 18.35 Gujarat 55.48 30.14 50.000 44.4 31.66 Haryana 57.83 23.35 99.21 47.5 35.77 HimachalPradesh 12.95 -75.00 47.1 25.38 Jammu and Kashmir 31.82 -70.00 26.6 20.29 Karnataka 49.00 27.85 74.00 40.7 41.2010 Kerala 55.89 27.99 125.00 20.7 2111 MadhyaPradesh 40.61 26.54 67.00 68.8 42.612 Maharashtra 52.97 31.90 69.00 41.2 55.913 Manipur 38.66 19.79 81.40 100 1114 Meghalaya 21.44 9.77 70.00 2.5 33.615 Mizoram --91.00 15.4 41.916 Nagaland - - 100.00 46.9 4.917 Orissa 44.86 14.02 70.00 57.3 34.918 Punjab 32.01 -94.48 49.2 41.719 Rajasthan 44.16 9.45 73.00 84.9 52.520 Sikkim --85.00 58.9 6.421 TamilNadu 60.79 31.23 80.00 26.7 61.122 Tripura 38.18 0 60.00 67.4 21.423 Uttar Pradesh 47.79 26.09 100.00 31.9 14.924 WestBengal 44.58 32.35 70.00 14.3 11.825 Chhattisgarh --66.70 55.7 44.626 Jharkhand --76.68 37.3 32.627 Uttarakhand - - 73.00 30.2 27.4 All India 61.23 44.59 Source: Prepared by Santosh Merhotra, Planning Commission of India, cited in D Bandopadhyay, “Mayhem at Dinhata”,The Statesman, 14 February 2008, p 7.
SPECIAL ARTICLEEconomic & Political Weekly EPW may 2, 2009 vol xliv no 1835This sameRLE also reported that employment days for agricul-tural labourers were still characterised by a great degree of un-certainty due to weather and seasonality of associated manual operations such as sowing, weeding, harvesting, etc. But there was a secular decline in the number of wage-days for agricultural labourers – from 245 in 1993-94 to 235 in 1999-2000, and 227 in 2004-05. Health hazards and occupational safety issues have remained acute with violent accidents often a result of workers being exposed to pesticide sprayers, mixers, loaders, thrashers, sugarcane crushers and chaff cutters. These account for 70% of all farm accidents.9 TheNCRL report also suggests a high degree of distress migra-tion. It speaks of the propensity of agri-cultural labourers and poor peasants to move to distant areas in search of work, but they migrate without any substantive bargaining power. The 1991 Census (1991 Census Migration, Table D2) had already indicated that about 44% of the agricul-tural labourers migrate seasonally, while the percentage among farmers (mostly poor peasants) was about 37%. Women form a majority of the agricultural labour migrants, while male migrants are mostly non-agricultural workers. The RUS tells us of the hazards of travel, deplorable liv-ing conditions, lower wages, irregular payment, long hours of work, alien work conditions, absence of occupational health and safety provisions, and vulnerability to recruiting agents.10 It is worth recalling, in this context, Dharma Kumar’s comment that the fortunes of agricultural labourers are a good index of changes in the entire agrar-ian economy; the trend in the number of agricultural labourers and in their wages reflect the growth of population, the exten-sion of cultivation, the rate of industrialisa-tion and the effects of integration in the world economy. But it is equally worth noting those studies that have shown that, except in few parts of the country, the conditions of agricultural labourers remain depressed. One writer has concluded that the condition of the body too has remained “depressingly constant”.11Is it possible to estimate the magnitude of the migration of the village poor? One study has suggested the figure of about half a million in peak season from the rice belt of just one state, West Bengal.12 TheNCRL apprehends that the conditions of the migrants are similar to those of bonded labour. Tables 2 and 3 give a view of the current situation. Debt bondage is the most prevalent form of bondage. Debt bondage is often the ground of unfavourable wage contract, adverse control of labour and labour conditions. The law makes little sense in such situations in terms of ensuring freedom and mobility.13In addition to the figures on bonded labour, there is a growing demand for child labour in the wake of liberalisation. An overwhelming percentage of India’s nine million child labour-ers14 work in agriculture. Here too the relevant act, the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act (1986) is not much effective. Table 4 (p 36) is eloquent on this. The Double Burden of WorkFinally, where do women stand in this scenario? We, of course, knowtheissuesinconceptualising women’s work – the double burden of work, the invisibility of women’s work in the current patriarchal exercise of mapping of work, conditions of women’s work, and finally the discrimination their work entails. Table 5 (p 37) gives us the relevant characteristics of women workers. We can note here some other related factors of significance. For instance, while unorganised workers are nearly 91% of the total male workforce, this ratio is 96% among women. The corre-sponding figures, in the case of the unor-ganised sector as a whole, is 84% and 91%, respectively. We can also clearly identify the wage difference. The daily wage of the casual male worker in urban areas is Rs 74.3, while the same for female worker is Rs 43.6. In rural areas, the wage for men is Rs 54.6 and for women it is Rs 44.0, while for dalit and indigenous women it is even less at Rs 34.7 (Table 5.2 of the RUS, p 77; table drawn on the basis of NSS 61st round, 2004-05). Notwithstanding the economic pro-gress of the country, the double burden of work tells upon women workers much more in terms of lower levels of health, mortality and morbidity rates. The same NSS data shows that more than one-third of the women working at home are will-ing to engage in productive (marketable product) activities if such work is availa-ble within the confines of their homes, and a quarter of them are willing to work full-time outside too. Besides the availability of work, the non-conventional place of her work also adversely affects her wage and mobility. Only one-third of the women non-agricultural workers have designated workplaces, either of their own or belonging to their employees. Lack of clear-cut employment, employer-employee relationship, designated workplace and clarity as to what would constitute self-employment contributes to the invisibility of women’s work. In this discussion, we should keep in mind the condition of the girl child workers in the country today. Formally they form only 2.6% of the total women workforce, but this figure conceals much of the work the girl child is called upon to perform at different times. They, in fact, symbolise the farthest extent of labour flexi-bilisation imaginable at the beginning of this new century. It is flexibilisation brought in not by technology (at least directly) but Table 2: Number of Bonded Labour Identified, Released and Rehabilitated by the Centrally-Sponsored Scheme during 2005-06States Identified and Rehabilitated Central Assistance Released Up to Up to Provided in Rs Lakh 31 March 2005 31 March 2005 Up to 31 March 2005Andhra Pradesh 37,988 31,534 850Bihar 13,65112,974389.28Karnataka 63,43757,185 1578.18Madhya Pradesh 13,087 12,200 163.26Orissa 50,02946,901903.34Rajasthan 7,4886,33172.42Tamil Nadu 65,573 65,573 1661.94Maharashtra 1,398 1,325 9.55Uttar Pradesh 28,236 28,236 577.07Kerala 823 710 15.56Haryana 551490.93Gujarat 64641.01Arunachal Pradesh 3,526 2,992 568.48Chhattisgarh 12412412.4Punjab 69 69 6.9Uttarakhand 550.5Jharkhand 196 196 19.6West Bengal 5 5 0.5Total 2,86,2452,66,2836830.42Source: Annual Report, 2004-05, Ministry of Labour; Government of India.Table 3: Incidence of Bonded Labour ReportedYear Incidence of Bonded Year Incidence of Bonded Labour Reported Labour Reported (Number)(Number)1999-98 6,0002002-03 2,1981998-99 5,960 2003-04 2,4651999-2000 8,1952004-058662000-01 5,2562005-063042001-02 3,929Source:Annual Report,2004-05,Ministry of Labour;Government of India.
SPECIAL ARTICLEmay 2, 2009 vol xliv no 18 EPW Economic & Political Weekly36by the structure of labour markets and the entire political econo-my.15 Added to this is the increase of female workers in the sub-sidiary status category, particularly in urban areas, which indi-cates erosion of full-time jobs and a corresponding increase in part-time informal jobs. All these have reinforced the present-day sexual division of labour. The case of garment industry is the most well known in this respect. Operating within subcontract-ing supply chains (as in the tannery industry in Kolkata16), labour superintendence, gradation of labour and stages in the labour process such as cleaning, stitching, embroidery, finishing, tagging, and packaging female labour occupies a position much worse than male labour. Further, women workers face occupational segrega-tion. In the wake of globalisation and export-driven growth, these features are being reinforced rather than being weakened.If we decide to call it the feminisation of labour, what is its ex-act reflection in agriculture? We can quote the RUSon this:…There was no feminisation of agriculture till 2000; however the share of women workers in agriculture in 2004-05 showed an increase. The obverse is observed for the process of casualisation of female workforce in agriculture, that is proportion of agricultural labourers among female workers in agriculture. Casualisation of the workforce in agriculture occurred from 1983 to 2000 for men and women and in 2004-05 when the feminisation of the workforce seemed to have oc-curred, there was no further casualisation of workforce. Therefore the recent increase in self-employed workers in 2004-05 in agriculture was true for women workers as well, with the proportion of women cultivators on the rise.17The implications of this observation are still not clear; possibly total work in agriculture in terms of total mandays is on decline; men may be moving more towards casual jobs in despair, and women may be managing and engaging in cultivation in greater number, particularly in rice growing areas. But whatever be the case, all these features of women’s work reflect significantly on the constitution of the reserve army of labour. We may say that the reserve is on the rise. There are two indications of this trend: (a) first the phenomenon of swelling migration of which we have talked a little, and (b) sec-ond, the growth of the self-employed sector. Swelling Ranks of Migrant WorkersOn the first indication, labour brokers fill the construction sites, quarries, and brick-kilns with destitute labour – reminding us ofthe recruiting agents of the 19th century who used to stalk thecountryside of eastern India. The Census of 2001 tells us that about 20% of the migrants move due to reasons of em-ployment, 2% each move on business and for education, 24% move with households, and 27% move upon marriage. Census and NSS figures,however, seem to underestimate sea-sonal and short-term migration, which isa characteristic of the presence of a reserve army of labour. Yet what we get from the census conducted in the new millennium’s beginning is signifi-cant. In 45% of cases the migrants’ duration of stay is below 10 years. Now if we recall that marriage was the single biggest fac-tor (we can assume that marriage contributes most heavily to the other 50% whose duration of stay was 10 years or more in 2001), we can get the significance of migration in terms of political economy and class relation.18 Table 6 (p 38) gives us the details. In any case, both the census and NSS figures indicate that the rateofmigrationhas increased. According to the 2001 Census, the total migrant population in the country is a little above 30 crore (315 million). About one crore workers migrate for two to six months. According to one survey on women and migration in Orissa, based on the two districts of Bolangir and Noapada and conducted in 2006-07, it was found that women migrated mostly to Andhra Pradesh, Surat and Raipur. Dalit and indigenous women accounted for 64% of these migrants. Landless and poor peasant women (landholdings of two acres and less) accounted for 88% of the migrants.19 In Mumbai, about 80% of workers con-stituting low income households are migrants. They are mostly illiterate and unskilled. They have very little bargaining power and many do not enjoy urban services such as water, electricity, sewerage and transport. They do not have regulated working hours, are often victims of the “wrath of local elements” and suf-fer from harsh working and living conditions. If this is not enough, they are also objects of threats from militants, security forces, toughs, touts, administration, judiciary and xenophobic rabble-rousers against “outsiders”. Here is a report in the wake of Jaipur blast in May 2008 that symbolises what is in store of migrant labourers in cities of India today:The Vasundhara Raje government has woken up to the problem of illegal Bangladeshi migrants in the state after stumbling upon footprints of Bangladesh-based terror organisation HuJIin the Jaipur blasts. It has ordered their identification, which, if taken to the logical conclusion, may lead to deportation. Evidence allegedly linking some of the migrants to the recent blasts has a disturbing aspect. It tells us that tentacles of terrorists, depending on support of these poor and mostly illiterate migrants, have now spread across the length and breadth of India – from Delhi to Mumbai and from Assam to Rajasthan.These migrants, taking up menial jobs in the cities, mostly keep mum even if paid poorly and treated badly. For, protesting means identifica-tion and deportation to the place from where they have fled in search of two square meals a day. Pro-longed abuse and exploitation fuel their animosi-ty and anger towards the locals… Some of these illegal migrants evolve as live bombs, ready to carry out any order from terror masterminds.If the Rajasthan government woke up now to the problem of illegal migrants, the Centre and Assam government have repeatedly ignored tell-tale warning signals from the Supreme Court. Both had even stepped around a 2005 order of the apex court asking them to speed up detection of illegal Bangladesh migrants…When petitioner Sarbanand Sonowal pointed out that the problem of illegal migration from the neighbouring country had assumed dangerous proportions, the Centre and the Assam government Table 4: States with High Incidence of Child Labour and Out-of-School Children**, 2004-05 (%)State ChildLabour MaleFemaleTotalAndhra Pradesh 6.1 7.1 6.6Orissa 5.3 4.6 5.0Rajasthan 3.6 5.5 4.5Uttar Pradesh 4.7 3.4 4.18FTU#FOHBMtMaharashtra 3.2 3.7 3.5All-India 3.5 3.3 3.4Out-of-school children Bihar 29.940.134.4Jharkhand 20.027.423.4Uttar Pradesh 20.3 25.7 22.8Rajasthan 15.629.222.2Arunachal Pradesh 19.7 24.1 21.7Madhya Pradesh 17.3 26.4 21.5Orissa 17.323.720.4Chhattisgarh India 15.4 20.8 17.9t On 12 June 2008, the Secretary, Department of Industries, West Bengal Government admitted that in West Bengal the number of child labour stands at 8 lakhs, mostly employed in tea stalls, tanneries, small leather goods factories, brick fields and kilns, shrimp cleaning units, garbage clearance work, and self-employed jobs. The Statesman, 13 June 2008.** 5-14 years.Source: NSS 61st Round 2004-05, Employment Unemployment Survey Computed.
SPECIAL ARTICLEEconomic Political Weekly EPW may 2, 2009 vol xliv no 1837triedtheirbesttodeflect the issue telling the apex court that border fenc-ingworkwasonand determination of illegal migrants through tribu-nals was working well. The ground reality was something totally dif-ferent. A shocked Supreme Court castigated the Centre for ignoring the virtual “external aggression” unleashed on Assam because of rapid influx of Bangladeshi migrants, and pulled up the state government for allowing them to stay on…A notification was issued on February 10, 2006, to step around the 2005 judgment of the apex court scraping the Illegal Migrants (Deter-mination by Tribunals) Act.“Though we would normally desist from commenting, when the security of the nation is the issue as highlighted in the 2005 judgment, we have to say that the bona fide of the action leaves something to be desired”, a three-judge bench had said. A few days after quashing the illegal migrant-friendly notification, the apex court to its horror noticed that there was not even a single tribunal under Foreigners Act in Delhi for detection of illegal migrants.When such stinging rebukes and repeated warnings from the highest court of the land go unnoticed or are side-stepped by the ruling parties, one wonders whether a diligent policeman’s painstakingly collected in-telligence input about an impending terror attack would ever be taken seriously by those who take orders from the same ruling classes.20The political economy around urban migrant workers has more implications in terms of accumulation. Studies have noted how the local in the figurative sense of the term becomes the site of accumulation,21 specially in a context where a majority of urban migrant workers are engaged in construction industry, including clearing of lands and the waste disposal and recycling industry, including garbage clearance. Involving hugeamountsof cash transaction, such a site of labour becomes an“autonomous” local economy by itself, influencing local politicsandeffectingthe grid of national politics and the overall accumulation of wealth and capital. Laws do not hold much validity in these zones; these are like the frontier regions but situated within theheartofthe city, at times on the periphery, but always integratedwiththeurban economy. These zones have their own internal protection and taxation systems. They prove Charles Tilly’s wisdom by turning it upside down. Tilly had said states function likemafiagangsand rackets of extortion; in these zones the mafiagangs work like states. They raise levies, impose protection duties to safeguard property rights, allow, disallow and patronise unions, maintain policing and administrative staff, arbitrate over disputes, institute credit markets and become vital links to the external world, indeed to survival prospects. These economies are the restructuring agents of capital and the urban space.22Butmigrant labourers do not only have to bear the cross of being terroristsand/orbethe pawns of local chieftains of a city. To this scenario we need to add the phenomenon of labour and sex trafficking, which was illus-trated by the series of episodes around the Mumbai bar dancers. The bar dancers’ case is well known in terms of demonstrating the link between these two forms of trafficking.23 But there are other reports too which show the link between the two forms of trafficking – labour and sex – in the modern flesh market.24I am leaving out from this bare narration the way these primeval labourers want to reach the frontier areas of capitalism, the way they die on mid-sea, in the belly of the ships and aeroplanes, or perish in tunnels, or suffer the rest of their lives as low paid dis-criminated workers – precisely the condition they wanted to es-cape. I have written elsewhere on this.25 But the connection be-tween trafficking in labour and sex, and globalisation needs to be noted in passing. On this topic consider this abridged report:26The movement of people from one country to another is an inevitable outcome of globalisation. According to the 2005 report of the UNFPA titledState of World Population, the number of international migrants was estimated at 17.5 crores. The major problem connected with this migration is human trafficking and smuggling. Humantraffickingis a lucrative criminal activity. AccordingtotheInternationalLabour Organisation,it can generate up to $31 billion a year, most of it from forced labour and exploitation. The trafficking and smuggling protocols, generally referred to as the Pal-ermo protocols, came into force on 23 December 2003 and 28 January 2004, respectively. By definition, trafficking denotes the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or “receipt of persons” by threat,force, coercion, abduction and fraud. Ex-ploitation can involve prostitution or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or slavery...Between 8,00,000 and 1.2 million women and children are victims of trafficking the world over. Human trafficking is the world’s third largest illegal business, generating $9.5 billion in revenue each year. … West Bengal, along with Bihar, ac-count for the maximum number of girls who have been trafficked into the country from abroad sim-ply for prostitution. According to figures available till 2005, this so-called “importation of girls” has increased by nearly 67.4%. … Statistics reveal that the highest number of pending cases of violence against women is of importation… While many of the victims are rescued and the offenders arrested, many cases go unreported. Most of the girls come from poor families and are lured into the trap with the promise of a lucrative job. The major factors behind human trafficking are poverty, political instability, unexpected changes in economic or political condition, natural Table 5: Select Characteristics of Women Workers(2004-05)Indicator Male Female Rural Rural Female SCs/STsTotal workers (usual principal and subsidiary status/in million) 309.4 148.0 124.0 44.9Labour force participation rate 56.0 39.0 33.3 37.9Workforce participation rate 54.7 28.3 32.7 37.5Percentage of regular workers in total workforce 18.2 8.9 3.7 3.1Percentage of self-employed in total workforce 54.2 61.1 63.7 51.1Percentage of casual labour in total workforce 27.5 30.0 32.6 45.8Percentage of unorganised workers in total workforce 90.7 95.9 98.0 98.6Percentage of unorganised sector workers in total workforce 84.0 91.3 94.5 95.0Percentage of workers in agriculture and allied activities 48.9 72.8 83.34 86.2Percentage of out of school children in relevant age group (5-14 years) 15.5 20.7 23.5 28.5Mean years of schooling (all workers) 5.4 2.5 1.9 1.2Mean years of schooling (unorganised non-agr workers) 6.1 3.7 2.9 2.0Mean years of schooling (rural unorganised agr workers) 3.7 na 1.6 1.1Percentage of all workers up to primary education (including illiterates) 55.6 80.7 85.0 90.7Percentage of unorganised non-agr workers up to primary education (including illiterates) 49.2 70.8 77.1 84.7Percentage of unorganised agricultural workers up to primary education (including illiterates) 68.8 87.8 88.0 92.2Percentage of workers with only subsidiary work 1.9 24.9 26.1 23.5Wage rate of rural agricultural labourers (Rs per manday) 47. na 33.1 33.1Wage rate of rural non-agricultural labourers (Rs per manday) 67.5 na 44.0 45.8Percentage of casual labourers (rural) not getting national minimum wage of Rs 66 78.0 na 95.6 95.4Percentage of casual labourers (rural) not getting NCRL minimum wage of Rs 49 40.9 na 80.9 80.7Source: NSS 61st Round, 2004-05.
SPECIAL ARTICLEmay 2, 2009 vol xliv no 18 EPW Economic Political Weekly38and man-made disasters, poor governance, advance in communica-tion and transportation, easy profits made from exploitation, margin-alisation of the poor, and lack of information about the realities and dangers of trafficking and smuggling. The administration shows little concern to tackle it seriously, allowing operators to indulge in a part-time or whole-time illegal profession with inter-state and international ramifications. Even so-called men of position are involved. For in-stance, the BJPMP, Babubhai Katara, was arrested for trying to smuggle a woman and a teenager to Canada. West Bengal has emerged as a major hub over the last 10 years, with 15,750 girls and women having been abducted and kidnapped in 2005. The procuring of minor girls shot up from 2.7% to 13.8% in 2005, and the number of girls sold to prostitution rose from 26.7 to 88%. Bengal serves as a source, transit and destination for trafficking in women and children. The state’s border with Bangladesh, Bhutan and 14 major points with Nepal in North Bengal have made it a vulnerable location. Its common boundaries with Orissa, Bihar, Jharkhand and Sikkim have made it a safe haven for traffickers. The problem of child trafficking is endemic in the districts of Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri, Cooch Bihar, Murshidabad, North and South Dinajpur, Malda, Midnapore, Nadia, North and South 24-Parganas. Kolkata is also a nerve centre with 21 large brothels acting as active links with numerous “flying sex zones” across the country. Nearly 10 per cent of the sex workers in the city have come from Bangladesh and Nepal. The city accounts for 45.5 per cent of minor girls brought into the state. The Bengal-Bangladesh border is a key entry point. There are 14 such points from Nepal to North Bengal. The two dangerous dens in Mur-shidabad are located in Jalangi and Domkol. The trafficked girls are confined to the prostitution centres of North Bengal, Nadia, South 24-Parganas and Kolkata before being sent to Delhi, Mumbai, Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Pune, and even places in Kashmir, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh. More than 45.5 per cent girls are trafficked through Kolkata. According to the National Human Rights Commission report, Bengal is fourth in terms of trafficking. A large number of missing cases are not reported. The children leave their homes with the knowledge of their parents. Therefore, no complaints are filed with the police. Ini-tially, the parents don’t realise that their children are being trafficked as they are taken away with the promise of either jobs or marriage. In most of the cases those who lure these children away happen to be their own relatives or someone known to them…On an average the traffickers earn Rs 25,000-30,000 on each transaction…Self-Employed, Yet WorkersBut now on the second indication: The growth of self-employed workers is a fuzzy phenomenon. It conceals more than it reveals. Almost 57% of the workforce is in this sector. Casual workers account for 28% and regular workers for 15%. The RUScomments that if we take the unorganised sector as a whole, the self-employed sector will probably account for more.27 The presence of this huge sector demonstrates the linkages between workers, business enterprises and the self-employed. The employment status also remains fuzzy: they can be own-account workers, workers under employers or unpaid (or contributing) family workers. Again self-employment can be of low-income category, closer to or margin-ally above casual workers or of high-income category, closer to or higher than regular workers. In the former, we may place the handloom weavers, street vendors, rickshaw pullers, embroidery (chikan) workers, food processors, rag pickers, beedi rollers, potters, incense stick makers, bamboo product makers and such others. The latter category would comprise independent pro-fessionals, shop owners in cities, rice mill owners, commission agents, small hoteliers, restaurant owners and workshop owners. A majority of self-employed workers are owner operators or family labourers. Their eternal attempt seems to be to cross the critical threshold whence they become self-employed in the second category discussed above. Often family members of the next generation switch over to the work of wage labourers. In the final analysis, in contemporary India the self-employed workers, besides contributing to national wealth, serve two important functions. They are the vital link between a graded labour and valorisation process on the one hand, and the market on the other. They also ready the entire reserve army of labour to be marshalled in the interest of capital and its labour market.Governing Labour TodayHow is this labour being governed today? We are referring to, it is clear by now, only one section of workers, the unorganised ones. The descriptions in the preceding pages already give us a fair idea of how labour is governed in the country. One may call this structural governance, or the way in which conditions of labour are structured and regulated. In fact even a cursory reading of the available material on primary labour would indicate the strength of the structural factors in regulating labour. From this follows the question: why does the labour regime need the various legal and administrative forms of governing labour? Why is there so much talk about labour welfare? This would invite a big discussion, which we cannot afford to enter here. But we should note in passing that bourgeois society (and capitalist production) requires labour as a free subject, that is free to enter or refuse contracts, free to change jobs, free to meet the conditions of capital. It means the reproduction of the economic category of worker as the juridical category of citizen. But what happens if this process of reproduction stops or advances at a very slow pace? What happens when the bare existence of labour makes the life of capital seem murky? How can oneclothe labour’s bare existence – always at the root of bio-politics–and how does one facilitate the bourgeois mode of production, civility, equality, and freedom? We, therefore need to consider, even if briefly, the labour regulation regime in the unorganised sector, while keeping in mind the international humanitarian and labour Table 6: Percentage, Distribution of Migration by Duration of Stay 2001Duration of Residence Total Migrants Migrants Who Stated Work/ Employment as the Reason for Migration Total Male Female Total Male FemaleLess than 1 year Total 2.8 4.5 2.1 7 6.1 13.7 Rural 2.9 6.2 2 15.3 13.8 21 Urban 2.7 3 2.5 3.3 3.1 5.61-4 years Total 15 17.8 13.9 23.5 23.1 26.7 Rural 13.8 17.2 12.9 28.1 28.4 27 Urban 17.6 18.3 17 21.5 21 26.45-9 years Total 13.4 13 13.6 17.7 18 16 Rural 12.7 11.3 13.1 16.6 17.2 14.1 Urban 14.7 14.5 14.9 18.2 18.3 181-9 years Total 28.4 30.8 27.4 41.3 41.1 42.7 Rural 26.5 28.5 26 44.6 45.6 41.1 Urban 32.3 32.7 31.9 39.7 39.3 44.410 years-above Total 54.2 39.2 60.6 51.6 52.8 43.5 Rural 57.5 32.7 64 40 40.6 37.8 Urban 47.7 45 50.1 56.9 57.6 49.9Source: Census of India 2001, Table D-3.
SPECIAL ARTICLEEconomic Political Weekly EPW may 2, 2009 vol xliv no 1839regulatory measures (for instance, ILO conventions on frontier workers, migrant workers, indigenous people, etc) that are there to reinforce the conditions of unorganised labour. In the context of our discussion it is also important to recognise the fact that while these mechanisms regulating conditions of production have remained in place for years, the government has been increas-ingly inclined to adopt measures in thesphere of living, thenon-production sphere, through administrative, semi-legal and legal guarantees for instituting select social security measures (such as compensation, insurance, loan waivers, rehabilitation schemes, etc). The significance of these aspects of governing labour will become clearer before we have concluded.One of the reasons for the particular way labour is governed has to do with the bourgeois mode in which labour is compre-hended. Thus, the government sticks diligently to the ephemeral divisions in which unorganised labour appears, namely, wage la-bourer, home-worker and the self-employed, little realising that these divisions are not strict. Labourers often pass from one cat-egory to another and the overwhelming majority of them are in one way or another related to agriculture. It is also important to remember that together they are the physical site for the primi-tive accumulation of capital and constitute the reserve army of labour to be used at will whenever the need for labour in an ex-panded economy (nationally or globally) arises. The conditions of work for these countless numbers thus depend on the way the employers, contractors, suppliers and other institutions of the market make them (conditions) available to the labourers. What does a regulatory framework mean in this context?The answer to this question has already been suggested. The attempt is to legalise the conditions of work in a manner which enables the unorganised worker to emerge as anequalcitizen withequalfreedom to access protection mechanisms related to unorganised enterprises. In short, the unorganised worker has to emerge as acitizen. Here we can discern the purpose of daily rules of governing labour.The game, of course, began from the time of Constitution making. Articles 13-14 prohibit the exploitation of labour in the form of forced labour and child labour factories, mines and in hazardous occupations. Articles 15-16 guarantee non-discrimina-tion by the State, and equality of opportunity in matters of public employment. Article 19 assures the right to form associations and unions. Article 21 gives the right to life. These fundamental rights are reinforced with standards set in the Directive Principles of State Policy. Securing for the citizen the right to work is a directive. Likewise securing provisions of just and humane con-ditions of work, maternity relief, living wage, conditions of work suitable for a decent standard of life are directives. The State has to enact suitable legislations and other measures for all workers – agricultural, industrial, or otherwise. Labour is on the con-current list in the Indian Constitution, and flows from ListIII of the 7th Schedule (entries 22-24). India has also ratified a number of ILO conventions (41 in total) and those relating to minimum wages concern unorganised work. But, notwithstanding all these, almost all labour laws are limited in their coverage (for instance, type of employment relationship, size and character of establish-ment). Thus we hardly have any law applicable to all workers. This factor, above all, affects the workers in unorganised enterprises most. Again most laws concerning unorganised labour do not touch self-employed labour. The Equal Remunerations Act (1976) and the Bonded Labour System Abolition Act (1976) apply to all. How-ever, Acts on minimum wages (1948),28 child labour (1986), dan-gerous machines (1983), motor transport workers (1961), inter-state migrant workmen (1979), or manual scavengers (1993) touch only some sections of unorganised work. To take just one instance, the Inter-state Migrant Workmen’s Act does not provide protection to migrant women “since they migrate on their own volition”.29 There are still other laws, which can be extended, such as on beedi and cigar workers, payment of wages (1936), construction workers (1996), maternity benefit (1961), contract labour (1970), workmen’s compensation (1923), and weekly holi-days (1942), among others. Factors taken into account in framing labour laws, such as physical conditions, duration and timing, remuneration, employment relations, conditions of disadvan-taged workers and others, need to be revisited and reformulated in terms of applicability criteria in order to become relevant for unorganised work today. This is important to enable them to ad-dress the main question, namely, what would help labour in facing the persistent conditions of primitive accumulation, rapacious ex-ploitation, absence of workplace democracy, market stranglehold, and the threat of extinction? We can also include, in this list of laws governing labour, Acts such as the Minimum Wages Act, which relates to agricultural work, or the Plantation Labour Act (1951) which ensures certain basic facilities for plantation workers. There are also state laws, the most known of these being the Shops and Establishments Act. In this context it is important to remember the various loop-holes in these legislative measures, the difficulty in their imple-mentation (such as the almost total absence of labour inspection arrangements at the block level), and the “lack of awareness” of these measures among the unorganised labour. Also, most of them do not apply to small units of five to seven workers and to the vast numbers of the self-employed. The question then arises, what purpose do these laws serve when the conditions of unor-ganised labour are such. The purpose in raising this question is not to deny any positive impact of these measures, but to point out how these measures finally contribute to a certain regime of superintendence of unorganised labour. Large unions have only recently taken up the task of the unionisation of unorganised la-bour. This is an extremely difficult enterprise by any standard because, in many cases, there is hardly any capitalist to fight di-rectly, there is the overwhelming presence of the wily contractor, and the existence of the State as the distant and illusory guaran-tor of social security provisions. In order to stabilise this sort of labour regime, besides the legislative provisions, there are now various kinds of governmental (including inter-governmental, such as the World Bank) and non-governmental loan guarantee and waiver schemes, self-help facilities, rural asset formation schemes and income plans, all of which aim to stabilise the con-dition of unorganised labour. In this environment of all-round informalisation, the unorgan-ised workers, therefore, opt for social movement initiatives which
SPECIAL ARTICLEmay 2, 2009 vol xliv no 18 EPW Economic Political Weekly40urge labour to combine traditional union demands (of wage in-crease and permanence of employment) with campaigns and dis-courses of social security and cooperatives (such as, forming co-operatives, setting up hospitals for workers and their family members, schools). The Bandhua Mukti Morcha is one of the early initiatives of this type. Accordingly, the unrest in the ranks of unorganised labour does not always take the form of tradi-tional trade union activism, but expresses itself often in sudden bursts of collective violence, or by aligning itself with efforts of waging war against the State, but also by working for new insti-tution building through novel ways. The critical point is to see whether there is any necessary con-nection between this permanently informal condition of labour and the maintenance of a reserve army of labour that capitalist production always needs? We may even take one extra step and ask whether there is any necessary connection between the exist-ence of such a reserve army of labour and the process of primitive accumulation? The important thing here is to understand the connection between the three phenomena –unorganised labour, formation of a reserve army of labour and primitive accumula-tion – and thus the two processes.I have already shown how unorganised labour has a double existence – that of the worker in the unorganised sector and that of a member of the reserve army of labour ready to be drafted in the required sectors of production and circulation. Interstate mi-gration of worker under conditions of forced displacement, per-manent existence of deep pockets of malnutrition, distress, hun-ger, starvation and stress deaths, boom in construction industry and the creation of a city within city, region within region, and centres within centres – all these confirm the double existence being referred to. The next section will address the more signifi-cant question of the link between unorganised labour and primi-tive accumulation. I shall argue that the link is not only struc-tural, but that there is a necessary connection between corporati-sation of capital and accumulation of capital in primitive form/s.Illusion of Capital without PainThe illusion of capital without pain and capital without labour in primitive conditions is, of course, several centuries old by now. Marx called it sarcastically the story of the “original sin”. This “theological story of original sin” still continues. Efforts are on to attach unorganised labour (rooted out from land and lacking entitlements derived from permanence of employment) to various forms of small property and asset ownership. But we have to note that the product of labour working in unorganised conditions, that is conditions of dispossession and expropriation, is realisable only through capitalist market conditions. In fact, unorganised labour truly stands free in the double sense Marx speaks of – dis-possessed, and thus free of attachments, and free as a juridical person to accept any condition offered to him/her. And again, it is in this sense, s/he stands as a member of a vast (reserve) army waiting to be drafted into the lines of industrial production. Globalisation has only hastened the process of expropriation by turning large numbers of peasant proprietors into unorganised labour. Though some prefer to call it “primitive globalisation”,30 all past phases of globalisation had this feature of displacement and expropriation of petty property holders. The present phase is no exception. When Marx spoke of a historical process of expro-priation as the basis of accumulation, he was not speaking of “an original sin”, indeed he was suggesting that there was no original sin. Each phase, each stage, each site of accumulation has, and had, as its other the “primitive” (the original). Industrial sociolo-gists have demonstrated how even in a modern chemical plant there can be processes dark with mud and sweat. In my earlier work on the tannery industry in Kolkata I showed how informal, and at times beastly, conditions formed the basis of a sophisticated leather goods manufacturing industry headed by giants such as Bata, Adidas, Gucci and other fashion products manufacturers.31 More significantly, that study showed the blurred line of distinction between formal and informal conditions of labour, their deep links and the possible ways in which today’s organised labour can become tomorrow’s unorganised, or the unorganised of the past can be the organised labour of tomorrow. This mutually al-terable condition can be seen in the ways the special economic zones (SEZs) are emerging and absorbing labour in India today. SEZs and Primitive AccumulationThe process of primitive accumulation in India in the first decade of the 21st century is a process aided and facilitated by the exist-ence of surplus labour and the administrative strategy of creating theSEZs as spaces of exception to the “normal” process of capital-ist accumulation and development. In this differential use of space for accumulation, we have one more secret of the durability of the unorganised state of labour. This durability is made possi-ble through techniques of state and governance for differential administration of localities in the interest of accumulation, and these techniques are made possible precisely because of globali-sation within a national context.In the present context of discussion we have all the elements crucial to the process of primitive accumulation. These are the following. (a) The dissociation of the labourers from the means of labour (in some cases the dissociation is hidden) through various forms of displacements and consequent forced migration. (b) The extra-economic or the violent and other coercive ways of administration (including taxation) to effect this dissociation. (c) The production of the “critical mass” that turns into capital through this process. (d) Production of colonial relations through this dynamics of violent exploitation (within national territories too, known as internal colonialism). (e) The unorganised state of production where labour regulatory laws make little sense and, finally (f) the emergence of the free labourer, and let us remember, free in double sense discussed earlier. The phenomenon of SEZs in India today presents us in a congealed form all these features.32 The other thing to note is the way agriculture is viewed in terms of its ability to contribute to accumulation. There is the continuous push towards a condition where all crops, including cereals, become viable cash crops requiring agricultural machin-ery produced out of capital-intensive industry, the ready avail-ability of storage and preservative industry, processing industry and the just-in-time supply and distribution chains. Too impa-tient with the slow pace of surplus extraction even from such agriculture, capital often opts for a faster track of accumulation
SPECIAL ARTICLEEconomic Political Weekly EPW may 2, 2009 vol xliv no 1841by transferring agricultural land to the realty industry and thus destroying the very basis of human subsistence. The capitalist countries also need the so-called primary goods suppliers in the world market. Here, the vast unorganised sector, in the form of the great source for primitive accumulation, presents for capital its inescapable contradiction, which wounds the latter deeply and permanently. Enclosures (which theSEZs finally are) symbolise this contradiction between the neo-modern primitive capital and the displaced and dispossessed labour representing the ghost of a destroyed and dead agriculture. Meanwhile old centres of industry die. Most would still remember the famous industrial belts of the past, such as Durgapur-Asansol-Ranigunj, Ghaziabad-Aligarh, Old Bombay or the Ahmedabad textile mill areas, and the steel plant and wagon building colonies now spread desolately throughout the country. The capitalists, as anyone who knows the story of these former industrial areas, will understand how the process of healthy industries transforming into sunset industries is linked to the process of primitive accumu-lation even in a developed capitalist framework.33 Both these fea-tures mark the relentless informalisation of the labour process and at the same time the corporatisation of capital.Understanding the CorporateWe may, quite legitimately, ask what is this phenomenon of the corporate? Does it belong to classical capitalism? Is it only an-other name of that old word, monopoly? Without going into a detailed discussion here, we can highlight certain features perti-nent to the present discussion. In this age of late capitalism, cor-porate capital can act as a corporation only by a combination of non-economic and economic means, which yields for it super profit (in common language “windfall”). It controls and manipu-lates the punitive strings of administration, publicity and market in order to earn that super profit. Further, it embodies measures and an organisational style whose sole purpose is to defeat the periodic adverse impact on the corporate sector of the laws of division of labour and unequal growth of capitalism. To gain that windfall it wants all kinds of subsidies from the state while claiming that the state cannot give subsidy to the work-ing population and petty producers, not even the minimum wel-fare measures characteristic of developed capitalism. It also de-mands that all population be tuned into surplus except the labouring numbers it needs. It turns the state into a market state. By this I do not mean that the state facilitates the market but thatthe state views itself in the mirror of a market and not as a public instrument. The publicly decided juridical-legislative-administrative rules do not remain the guiding instruments for the state, but the rules of a rapacious market full with bargaining, profiteering, and fluctuating fortunes of the stock becomes its template. It is this situation which must have as its otherthe unorganised, of whom Jan Breman wrote, Mobilisation of casual labour, hired and fired according to the needs of the moment, and transported for the duration of the job to destina-tions far distant from the home village, is characteristic of the capitalist regime presently dominating in South Asia.34 Labour has to be thus turned into a floating commodity. We cannot help but notice that the land of the indigenous population in particular, as in Orissa, Chhattisgarh or Andhra Pradesh, is now up for grab and loot, whence labour again would become casual, ready for transportation to new areas of work, including work in the SEZs. These SEZs are seen as the El Doradotoday, promised investment destination of about $ 85 billion, mostly in mining projects and iron and steel plants, but, bringing no im-provement in the conditions of the uprooted population there. These will be the new enclosures, in whose story we have two lives written into each other – the life of corporate capital and that of unorganised labour.There is thus no natural evolution of capital, no pre-historic stage that the history of capital has overcome. The various at-tempts to stabilise the unorganised and informal state of labour by reforms, anti-poverty legislations and measures to turn labour into petty proprietors only temporarily succeed. At best they are an-other example of “countervailing tendency” (like the one to the falling rate of profit), while the relentless march of capital towards acquiring the corporate form remains secular. Yet, why is capital seen primarily as an embodiment of an economic relation and not a social relation? Marx wrote, “A great deal of capital, which appears today in the United States without any birth-certificate, was yesterday, in England, the capitalised blood of children”, and “capital comes dripping from head to toe, from every pore, with blood and dirt.”35 The history of primitive accumulation, on the basis of the continuing destruction of peasant and small commodity production and by keeping a large chunk of production informal and unorganised, is possible because this division between the formal and informal sectors, the organised and unorganised, and the primitive and modern is finally a social division with huge implications for the theory and the realities of democracy. The (Im)possibility of DemocracyHow are we to arrive at an understanding of the significance of these implications? To understand these implications we must grasp the nature of work, with which this essay is concerned. From work, we get the category of the worker and from the cate-gory of the worker we get the working class. The nature of work described in the preceding pages not only provides us an image of the worker in India, but this also gives us the crucial lead as to how this worker is represented. What emerges is a picture of the working class as a more discrete formation, an image which has enormous consequences for the theory of labour democracy, which in turn, is at the heart of any significant theory of popular democracy.36 The implications are also on the theory of collective action, which, in the last few decades, has solely relied on various versions of the form of processions, meetings, petitions and strikes. These implications are also on the issue of how to ensure representation of the unorganised worker as a fundamental pil-lar of popular democracy. Finally, they are on the elemental issue of how work is to be considered as the core of not only economics but politics and society too. In fact, this is the point at which we suddenly discover with clarity the relevance of the entire discus-sion on primitive accumulation to popular democracy. In modern time, class demonstrates its existence through collective actions, which are occasioned by primitive accumulation and discrete formation of popular resistance.37
SPECIAL ARTICLEmay 2, 2009 vol xliv no 18 EPW Economic Political Weekly42All these contradictions and their implications point to the dilemma capital-as-relation faces now. It will always need sover-eign power to preserve bourgeois society, which would mean maintaining conditions of capitalist production and the bourgeois mode of organising social relations. On the other hand, labour democracy would mean democracy in the process of production, democracy at the workplace interrupting, halting and disrupting – and if possible reconstructing – the process of accumulation which is, at the same time, the process of separating labour power, means of labour and the labourer from each other. The issue of informal conditions of labour occupies a strategic place in these two processes. Appearing as exception in a formally organised democracy, in-formal labour poses a challenge to the modern strategy of pro-ducing out of the worker the autonomous juridical figure of the citizen (who can claim on an equal basis all due entitlements) and on the other hand maintaining sovereign power to buttress conditions of accumulation. Thus, under the present conditions of capital accumulation, the emergence of informal labour as a component of democracy becomes at the same time necessary and impossible. This opens up a field full of tensions impacting upon the project of citizenship and democracy. Primitive accu-mulation and the heterogeneity of labour signify this permanent contradiction of a democratic polity.Notes 1 RUS, pp 240-41 (The years are 1999-2000 and 2004-05) 2 Report on Conditions of Work and Promotion of Livelihoods in the Unorganised Sector (hereafter RUS), Government of India, National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector, 2007, Tables A1.1 and A1.2, p 240; in Chapter 3 the Com-mission states that as of 2004-05 there were about 52.9millionwageworkers in the unorganised non-agriculturalsector, and 76.7 million unorganised orinformalworkersin the organised sector, that is tosaythatmorethan in the unorganised sector, it is in the organised sector that informalisation of wage labour continues – p 27, Paragraph 3.1. 3 RUS, Table A3.1, p 259. 4 RUS, Chapter 3, pp 33-34. 5 Onthe RUS, read the admirable summary high-lighting the main points of this massive reports, Dipak Mazumdar, “Dissecting India’s Unorganised Sector”,Economic Political Weekly, 9 February 2008, pp 27-33. 6 RUS, Table A3.1, p 259. 7 RUS, p 25. 8 The minimum rural wage was fixed at Rs 20 by the National Commission on Rural Labour, Ministry of Labour, Government of India in 1991; the National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sectorarrived at the figure of Rs 49 through up-dating the previous figure on the basis of prices of 2004-05.9 For details, see P K Nag and A Nag, “Drudgery, Accidents, and Injuries in Indian Agriculture”, Industrial Health, 42, pp 149-52, National Insti-tute of Occupational Health, Ahmedabad, 2004. 10 RUS, p 129. 11 Peter Mayer, “Trends of Real Income in Tiruchira-palli and the Upper Kaveri Delta, 1819-1980 – A Footnote in Honour of Dharma Kumar”,The Indian Economic and Social History Review, 43 (3), 2006, p 356; Dharma Kumar’ study referred here is, Land and Caste in South India (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1965); On the debate on the question as to if the condition of agrarian labour improved in the long run, see the biblio-graphy at the end of Mayer’s article; one more comment – if this is the situation in southern In-dia, things cannot be much improved in rest of the country, possibly elsewhere it is worse.12 B Rogaly, J Biswas, D Coppard, A Rafique, K Rana, and A Sengupta, “Seasonal Migration, Social Change, and Migrants’ Rights: Lessons from West Bengal”, Economic Political Weekly, 36 (49), 2005, pp 4547-59.13 R Srivastava, “Changes in Contractual Relations in Land and Labour in India”,Indian Journal of Agricultural Economics, 45 (3), 2000, pp 253-82.14 According to NSS 61st Round 2004-05 the exact number is 8.6 million.15 On flexibilisation of labour brought in by new technology and a consequent restructuring of the labour process, I had written earlier. See, R Samaddar, Workers and Automation (New Delhi: Sage, 1994), particularly chapters 4 and 6.16 On this see, R Samaddar and D Datta, “Knowing the Worker – The Tannery Mazdur of Tangra” in Parthasarathi Banerjee and Yoshihiro Sato (ed.), Skill and Technological Change – Society and Inter-national Perspective (New Delhi: Har Anand), 1997. 17 RUS, pp 132-33.18 Census 2001: D Series, Migration Tables.19 “Impact of Increasing Migration of Women in Orissa”, study conducted by Sansristi, and sup-ported by the National Commission for Women, Bhuvaneswar, 2007, p 67.20 Dhananjay Mahapatra, “SC Alterted Government to Illegal Migrants”,TheTimes of India, 19 May 2008, p13.21 I have in mind here – David Harvey (1985): Urbanisation of Capital (London: Blackwell); Manuel Castells and Alenjandro Portes (1989), “World Underneath – The Origins, Dynamics, and Effects of the Informal Economy” in Alenjandro Portes, Manuel Castells and Laura A Benton, The Informal Economy – Studies in Advanced and Less Developed Countries (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press); also see some of the studies on the inner city, for instance – Elijah Anderson (2000):Code of the Street – Decenc, Violence and Moral Life of the Inner City (New York: W W Nor-ton); Elijah Anderson (1992):Streetwise – Race, Class, and Change in an Urban Community (Chicago: University of Chicago Press); Christopher Jencks (1991), The Urban Underclass (Washington DC: Brookings Institution); and William Julius Wilson (1990),The Truly Disadvantaged – The Inner City, The Underclass, and Public Policy (Chicago: Uni-versity of Chicago Press). 22 Of Master Plans and Illegalities in an Era of Transi-tion, A Study by Alternative Law Forum, Banga-lore, 2003; for an overall view, Alejandro Portes, Manuel Castells, and Laura A Benton (ed.),The Informal Economy – Studies in Advanced and Less Developed Countries (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989).23 On this, apart from several newspaper reports in 2006-07, see Flavia Agnes, “The Bar Dancer and the Trafficked Migrant – Globalisation and the Subaltern Existence”,Refugee Watch, 30 Decem-ber 2007, pp 19-3524 For instance, Anjana Pradhan, “Pushed to the Wall – Lack of Employment and Intense Poverty Drive Many Women from the Tea Gardens and Fringe Areas of the Darjeeling Hills into the Flesh Trade”, The Times of India (Bangalore edition), 18 May 2008.25For instance, Ranabir Samaddar (1999):The Marginal Nation – Transborder Migration from Bangladesh to West Bengal (New Delhi: Sage); Ranabir Samaddar (2007),The Materiality of Poli-tics, Volume 1 (London and Delhi: Anthem Press), Chapter 5, “Stable Rule and Unstable Population”.26 “Illegality Spread: Responsibility to Curb Human Trafficking Rests on Society” – A Report by Manju-mohan Mukherjee,The Statesman, 25 June 2008. 27 RUS, p 49.28 The Supreme Court in the case of Bandhua Mukti Morcha (1984/SCC 389) held that even piece rat-ed worker is entitled for minimum wages. How-ever, different minimum wages may be fixed for different employments and different classes of work in the same employment. Likewise it can be varying according to hour, day, month, or any other prescribed wage period. 29 Findings of a study on Orissa migrant women workers; see “Impact of Increasing Migration of Women in Orissa”, p 11.30 See the discussion in William Sites, “Primitive Globalisation? State and Locale in Neo-Liberal Global Engagement”,Sociological Theory, 18 (1), March 2000, pp 121-44.31 “Knowing the Worker – The Tannery Majdur of Tangra”, op cit.32 On this, Swapna Banerjee-Guha, “Space Relations of Capital and Significance of New Economic Enclo-sures: SEZs in India”, Economic Political Weekly, Volume XLIII, 27, 22-28 November 2008, pp 51-59. 33 On the significance of new enclosures, Soumitra Bose, “Special Economic Zones: Neoliberal Enclosures In India”, Radical Notes, 17 May 2007, /050608; (accessed 1August 2008) see also, Radical Notes by Pratyush Chandra and Dipankar Basu, 9 February 2007, 34 JanBreman,Footloose Labour: Working in India’s Informal Economy (Cambridge: Cambridge Univer-sity Press), 1996, p 23. 35 Capital, Volume 1, p 926; Marx wrote, “Tantae molis erat, to establish the ‘eternal laws of Nature’ of the capitalist mode of production, to complete the process of separation between labourers and conditions of labour, to transform, at one pole, the social means of production and subsistence into capital, at the opposite pole, the mass of the population into wage-labourers, into ‘free labour-ing poor’, that artificial product of modern soci-ety. If money, according to Augier, ‘comes into the world with a congenital blood-stain on one cheek’, capital comes dripping from head to foot, from every pore, with blood and dirt.” – see also, (accessed 1 August 2008). 36 R Munck, Globalisation and Labour – The New Great Transformation (New Delhi: Madhyam Books, 2002); For reflections of this on the Indian situation, see, A Chakrabarti and B Dasgupta, “Disinterring the Re-port of National Commission on Labour – A Marxist Perspective”, Economic Political Weekly, XLII (21), 26 May 2007; A Chakrabarti and A Dhar, “Labour, Class, and Economy – Rethinking Trade Union Struggle”, Economic Political Weekly, 31 May 2008.37 There is a great need to integrate the writings of Charles Tilly on the history of collective actions in Great Britain in the political accounts of primitive accumulation. See for instance, C Tilly, Coercion, Capital, and European States, AD 990-1990 (Oxford: Blackwell), 1993; Social Movements, 1768-2004 (Boulder: Paradigm Publishers), 2004, Chapter 3, “Nineteenth-Century Adventures”.

Dear Reader,

To continue reading, become a subscriber.

Explore our attractive subscription offers.

Click here

Back to Top